by Todd Crowell
Victoria Park, the largest expanse of open space in Hong Kong, is the crossroads and away home for thousands of Muslim women who come from Indonesia to find their fortunes, or at least support their families, in the teeming Chinese city. Most come initially as maids, but some lose their employers and descend into the netherworld of overstayers, illegal street hawkers and disco “PR” girls. Whoever they are, they all know Dina: a woman who sells phonecards, changes money, dispenses advice and listens to their tales of exile.
Leila and Ahmed spend the day searching for a place to make love on their one day off, but all the cheap hotels are filled with other lovers celebrating the “End of Ramadan.” Ani finds an unusual way to put a curse on a rival for her affections in “Golden Needles”, while Retno decides that if she becomes a Mormon maybe she can find a regular place to sleep at night. “Wiji” somehow manages to juggle her two Western boyfriends until she manipulates them both into helping her buy a rice field back home, then finds that they insist on accompanying her to her home village as her great benefactors. “Wati and Murtini” grew up in the same small village in Java and worked together in Hong Kong until, on one hot day in Victoria Park, friendship ended in betrayal.
From the comic to the bizarre to the heart-breaking, these cross-cultural tales of exiles in another country build on a sensual evocation of place and character.